13 April 2012

Coupons, Consignment Stores and Items I Adore ... Oh My!

I got the idea from my Mom. Always helpful, my Mom is my rock, but Dad is usually my go-to for financial advice and/or lectures. He is often much more logical than Mom and I when it comes to spending. (I inherited my shopping habit from her after all.)

But on our daily check-in as Mom was walking the dog and I was immersed in systematizing my spice rack, she offered, "Why don't you apply your OCD to saving money? Make it a challenge to see how much you can save!"

At first, I appreciatively responded with, "that's not how it works, Mom." But considering the fact that I'm living on a starving artist's salary these days, I paused to give her Momism moment a second thought. I've spent the past two years doing what I love, dispensing my creativity with everything that relates to writing from technological press releases to advertisements to beefed-up bios for friends in diverse professions to editorial features in So Cal's hottest magazine. I've recovered my voice and myself after a 7-year snooze. However, at the same time I am struggling to maintain the So Cal lifestyle this OCDite has sold her soul to achieve.

Because most OCDites strive to be surrounded by consistent items of comfort in order to cultivate control and order in our lives, I find that it is a much larger challenge for us to make financially necessary lifestyle changes than your average person. And I feel, that it's necessary to explain why some sacrifices can be paralyzing once we're used to having them.

For example, I recently had to part with my beloved 2009 Honda Hybrid, because it turned out to be a lemon - just my luck. I searched for a deal on that damn car for nearly 3 years! But, it was obvious that this car was defective, so I set out to purchase a new vehicle, surrounded by anxiety due to the entirely sudden situation. So although I should have sought a more suitable bargain car due to my decreased income, I could not avoid the plague of already having my mind set on a particularly perfect car. Purchasing anything less would have been a 5-year burden I was not willing to carry, so I "wheeled and dealed" and came home with my shiny, sporty new car. But in avoiding one weight I added another - I now have to figure out how to compensate for my slightly higher car payment. Mom's advice is ringing in my ears.

Now, I wouldn't say that challenging myself to live on a lower budget is necessarily OCD behavior; however, tracking, monitoring and calculating feed right into this disorder and in some cases, can be very useful.

I am and always have been acutely aware of my finances - tracking and logging each penny that I spend - thanks to my Dad. The money my brother and I earned from doing daily chores wasn't given to us to put in piggy banks. It was smartly whisked away into our very own checking accounts, which Dad also taught us to balance. I remember cherishing my first little leather log of minimal finances. Now I place every detail of my financial activity into efficient - and of course pretty - Excel spreadsheets. But back to the object obsession that occurs inside an OCDite's mind: I know I should consult with my categorized budget before purchasing an $800 anthology of beautiful leather bound books, but it would just look so stunning on my bookshelves!

So how does an OCDite take her organized tracking and turn it into saving since so often the obsessive compulsive urge is to obtain rather than to dispose? Start engrossing your urges in ways to save! Here are a few tips on how I took Mom's advice and practically applied it to my disorder:

  1. Recycle. If you live in Orange County, our waste management service sorts and does the recycling for us; however, why not make the extra effort, do it yourself, and make an additional $20 a month!
  2. Pay attention to coupons. Usually, I get my mail, and throw half of it away, because it's advertisements, but there really are usable coupons in there. You should also go to the websites of the stores you shop in, because they always promote more savings on the sites than they do in the stores.
  3. Have a rummage sale. (aka a garage sale to you SoCal natives) It can be a lot of work, but if you invite your neighbors, it can be a really fun way to spend your Saturday morning while making money. Post a couple signs on the street corners, maybe post an ad on Craig's list, and I promise, the people will come. But make sure you start early - like 7 am - because that's when the bargain shoppers shop. I made $200 before 10 am during our recent rummage sale. Electronics and unique finds seem to be the most popular items. I also sold nearly $100 worth of jewelry at $1 each. The pieces were unique and trendy, but they were all inexpensive costume jewelry items. I find that the sale is all in the display, so rather than throw a bunch of earrings and necklaces on a table; I hung the items from wire cabinets and picture frames, which drew people in. A creative display makes items look more expensive - more special. One woman liked my display case idea so much that she purchased the actual cabinet, which I didn't originally intend on selling!
  4. Order your necessities online. If I run out of Bliss body lotion or Dior mascara, I order those items online from sites that don't charge shipping. Why? Because if I make the short drive to South Coast Plaza, I'll end up picking up a new fragrance or eye cream and then be drawn into the shoe store next door, and pretty soon, I've spent the rest of my month's budget on items I adore but certainly don't need.
  5. Make a list of at-home projects to keep you busy in your free time. There is always a closet to clean or a crafty idea to organize, so make a list to refer to when you have extra time instead of heading out the door to see what's new at The Hidden Jewel. (my favorite boutique in Costa Mesa! Sorry - I know that's not helping.) 
  6. Get the bulk of your groceries at your local farmer's market. Sure, you'll need to stop by Ralphs to get milk and butter and maybe bottles of water, but purchase most of your products at the farmer's market and you'll find that it's a lot easier on your budget. In addition to fabulous produce, many farmers markets are starting to carry beef and seafood and eggs as well as bread, so grab some greens, some fruit, fresh salmon and even some snacks for the week, and you'll have saved enough to dine at your favorite new restaurant over the weekend.
  7. Recycle those clothes that have been unworn for more than a year at your favorite consignment store. Let's be honest, if it's been more than a year and you're still waiting for the perfect occasion to wear that sparkly French Connection sweater, it's not going to happen. So why not sell it to someone who will get some use out of it? Keep in mind that the stores that will give you the most money for your precious pieces expect to see on-trend, in-season items when you sell. So if you have a gorgeous Marc Jacobs wool sweater, don't try to sell it in the summer. Stash it away until next season. My favorite local consignment shop is Crossroads Trading Co. in Costa Mesa. It continues to expand and can be a little daunting if you're trying to shop, but their window displays prove that those girls know what's in, and they're willing to pay fairly when they see suitable fashion. Address: 1835 Newport Blvd. (at 19th and Harbor) crossroadstrading.com
So whether you're saving money for emergency funds or that unique vintage find, try applying these ideas as a way to reach your goals without breaking the bank - all while fulfilling your own crazy compulsions.

Happy saving or shopping this Spring!

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